Acts 28:1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
2 And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
7 In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
9 So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
God protected every one of those on the ship and guided them safely to shore. Once on shore they discovered the name of the island. The Greek word translated as “Melita” means “honey”. No doubt it was a sweet thing for those people to be on solid ground after what they went through for the last 14 days.
God also watched over this group of people to guide them to an island with friendly people on it. They were barbarians, but they were friendly. They realized the situation these people had just faced and they lit a fire to help them warm up and dry out.
In verse 3 we see how God used another opportunity to show Himself strong. The apostle Paul was not one who would sit back and watch others work. He was not afraid of getting involved in what was needed. A fire needs wood to keep it going and he gathered some wood to put into the fire. He was a visitor, but he was not afraid of assisting those who were feeding the fire. We read that a viper came out of the wood that Paul had picked up and it fastened on his hand.
In verse 4 the barbarians had their superstitions. They assumed that Paul must have been an evil man. They assumed he was a murderer who had thus far escaped death, but now justice was coming. In verse 5 we see again that Paul was trusting in God. He simply shook it off and kept doing what he was doing.
In verse 6 the people of the island were familiar with these vipers. They knew they were poisonous. They expected Paul to have swollen up and died. However, this did not happen. They knew enough about those vipers to know they were deadly. They did not know who Paul was. They also did not know the true God.
Jesus taught an important truth in Mark 16:
Mark 16:18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
The perversions want to remove the last verses from Mark’s record of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Charismatics abuse this passage and every so often one of them dies while playing with deadly snakes.
The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. The apostle Paul was not tempting God. He was simply acting as a godly person would act. At this point he was feeding a fire. The viper bit him and he shook it off. No harm came to him because he was a true child of God who was serving God obediently. God had His purposes for sparing Paul from harm here.
In verse 6 the pagans determined that because Paul did not drop dead from the viper bite, he must be a god. Circumstantial evidence is not a good way to operate. We need to make decisions based on facts.
Years ago I was told of a Bible School that was located in an area that flooded on a regular basis. They were tired of having to make repairs after their buildings were flooded. They decided they needed to move, but they did not know where to move to. I was told by one of the staff at the school that the way they determined where to move was in a “prayer meeting” where they prayed for wisdom and then opened their Bibles randomly and the Bible opened at a place where God told the people to move north. Based on that text, they determined they should move north and they moved to their present location.
That is not a wise way to use God’s Word. God gives us principles in His Word that we can use to help us make wise decisions. He also gives us absolute truths that help us to know what is right and what is wrong. Through honest prayer and faithful Bible Study, God will direct His children. Randomly opening the Bible is not God’s way of leading His people.
In our text, the apostle Paul was serving God. God would use this event to open doors for Paul to share the Gospel with these barbarians. God would also show these barbarians they could trust the apostle Paul. We need to keep in mind that Paul did not have a Bible that he was carrying with him. He may have had some pieces of the Scriptures, but he did not have the entire Scriptures. They were not complete yet. Paul was an apostle and God stated that He would authenticate His apostles by giving them the ability to do signs.
II Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
We do not have any apostles today. You can examine everything I am saying by taking God’s Word and looking at what I am saying. You can confuse yourself by consulting a multitude of commentaries that may agree with each other, but they may not agree with God’s Word. Commentaries have their place, but it is important to use a good commentary. It is also important to remember that the Scriptures are inspired of God. Man-made commentaries are not inspired of God.
In verses 7-9 God opened a door for Paul to be able to help others on the island with their diseases. As he did so we can be sure he also told them about the true God. They needed to know there was only one true God. There were not many gods.
Again we see the importance of being a true child of God. A true child of God understands that he or she is saved to minister to the needs of others. True saints can pray for others. True saints will also seek opportunities to help others to know the true God. We do not know if anyone was saved on the island through Paul’s ministry. The apostle Paul reminds us:
I Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
God’s people need to be willing to minister to the needs of those God brings their way. The greatest need lost people have is not food or clothing. The greatest need is for them to hear the Gospel. God is not using signs and wonders to draw people to Himself at this time. We need to live like God’s people and He will give us opportunity to preach the Gospel to others. The important fact is to be born again and then live for the Lord.